As the competition intensifies and teams reach their prime fitness, here are four takeaways from the weekend’s action in Spain.
1. BELLINGHAM DOES IT AGAIN
Jude Bellingham proved pivotal once again, guiding Real Madrid to a narrow 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo on Friday evening. The England international netted the only goal a mere 10 minutes before the match concluded, reports Xinhua.
Celta, deserving at least a draw, had Strand Larsen’s early goal controversially disallowed due to a ‘foul’ on Madrid’s goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, as determined by VAR.
Bellingham’s decisive moment put the spotlight on the stark contrast between the two clubs. While financial constraints prompted Celta to sell their ace Gabri Veiga to Saudi Arabia, Real Madrid had the luxury to splurge 100 million on Bellingham — a critical aspect of this La Liga season.
2. TIME FOR SEMI-AUTOMATIC OFFSIDE
While the semi-automatic offside system was adeptly employed during the World Cup finals in Qatar last year, resolving numerous contentious decisions, its absence in La Liga is puzzling.
This weekend alone, three significant offside decisions impacted their respective matches:
Alexander Sorloth seemed offside initiating the play that culminated in Villarreal’s second goal against Barcelona, while Nico Williams appeared ahead of the defense when securing a penalty for Athletic Bilbao versus Betis.
Yet, VAR deemed both actions legitimate. Conversely, Ivan Rakitic’s potential equalising goal in Sevilla vs. Girona was disallowed, though it seemed valid. Implementing the semi-automatic system could preempt such controversies.
3. PRESSURE PILES ON SEVILLA
Sevilla’s 2-1 home loss to Girona on Saturday marked their third consecutive defeat, making it the club’s most dismal season opener ever.
Despite a stroke of bad luck, especially with Rakitic’s ‘goal’ negated by a hairline offside call, this loss further underscores Sevilla’s tumultuous off-season.
Gonzalo Montiel, the Argentine defender, transferred to Nottingham Forest on loan just a day before this match, and the lack of a reliable backup in central defense has pushed Nemanja Gudelj, a natural midfielder, to fill that role.
Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar, having guided Sevilla to European triumph the previous season, and the supporters rightfully question the recent downturn.
4. WILLIAMS BROTHERS VITAL FOR BILBAO
Athletic Bilbao, rebounding from their initial loss to Real Madrid, celebrated back-to-back victories. Their recent triumph saw them overturn a 2-0 deficit against Betis, resulting in a 4-2 win, with Inaki and Nico Williams playing crucial roles.
Betis struggled to counteract their swift wing plays, as Nico orchestrated two penalties that Mikel Vesga converted, levelling the score.
Inaki facilitated the first penalty, set up Gorka Guruzeta’s goal, and crafted the final pass that Unai Gomez slotted home. Typically positioned as a central striker, Inaki’s wing placement better complements his dynamic pace.